Day Trips & Beyond: December Events Roundup

Holiday happenings, news, and more

December is off to a wet and chilly start, but the Christmas lights are still burning brightly.

Photo Courtesy of Louisiana Office of Tourism

A Louisiana Christmas Tradition: Bonfires on the Levee, Dec. 24

Those crazy Cajuns in Louisiana have invented a spectacular Christmas Eve tradition. More than 100 bonfires light up the night sky on the levees along the Mississippi River to guide Papa Noel to the children’s homes. Folks all over St. James Parish join in the tradition of bonfires, fireworks, and food, but the largest concentration is on River Road between Lutcher and Gramercy just north of Lake Pontchartrain and convenient to I-10. To avoid the congestion, take a tour bus to the site from New Orleans 45 minutes away.

If you can’t commit your Christmas Eve to the fiery celebration, the town of Lutcher warms up for Christmas Eve with the Festival of the Bonfires on Dec. 11-12. There will be plenty of great Louisiana food and fun with a bonfire lighting each night. See for more info.

Photo by Gerald E. McLeod

Wonderland of Lights: Through Dec. 31, Tue.-Sun., 5-9pm

The town of Marshall, Texas, has been working on their Christmas lighting displays for nearly 30 years and they’ve gotten pretty good at it. The centerpiece of the colorful trails through the neighborhoods leads to the old Harrison County Courthouse in the center of town. Not only is the square occupied with food venders, carriage rides, and entertainment each night, but there is also a large outdoor ice skating rink. See for more info.

News Briefs

Illustration courtesy of

Santa Claus Postmark

Give your holiday cards a special postmark from the Santa Claus, Indiana post office. Each year, a local high school student designs new artwork for the cancellation featuring the town’s namesake. There is no charge for having up to 50 letters hand cancelled at the post office. Simply apply the correct postage to each envelope, package them up in box or envelope, and mail to: Postmaster, Santa Claus Station, Santa Claus, IN, 47579-9998. The picture postmark is available through Dec. 24.

Comeback, Patricia, Comeback

Mexican tourism officials have decided that Hurricane Patricia wasn’t bad enough the first time, so they’re offering 25 lucky Patricias a free trip to return to the sunny beaches of Vallarta-Nayarit or Manzanillo on the Pacific Coast. Hurricane Patricia roared ashore on Oct. 23 packing winds of 160 mph but doing little damage. It was the strongest known hurricane to ever strike Mexico’s west coast. Entry to the sweepstakes is open through Dec. 31 to anyone named Patricia. See for more info.

100th Anniversary Collector’s NPS Coin

To commemorate the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service, the U.S. Mint has unveiled $35 gold coins, $10 silver coins, and $5 half-dollar coins featuring John Muir and Theodore Roosevelt. Funds from the sale of the coins are used to help preserve and protect NPS parks. See for more info.

Dancing Shoes Not Included

Two historic Texas dance halls are for sale. The Swiss Alp Dance Hall between La Grange and Schulenburg includes a farm house, 25 acres, and the early 1900s dance hall. The Silver Spur Dance Hall in Bandera includes five rock cabins, a house with a view of the river, and the rock ruins of the once majestic dance hall that are still used as an event center. Check with your real estate agent for information.

Other December Events

History in Lights
Dec. 1-31, Goliad State Park and Historic Site, 361/645-3405,

Bethlehem Revisited
Dec. 4-6, 11-13, Waxahachie, 972/937-2390,

Kingston Trio in Concert
Dec. 12, Kerrville, 830/896-9393,

Geminid Meteor Shower
Dec. 13-15. Everywhere.

Stephen F. Austin Funeral Procession Reenactment
Dec. 26, Jones Creek. 979/864-1541,

Magical Winter Lights
Through Jan. 10, Sam Houston Race Park, Houston. 713/496-0556,

Contingent Beauty: Contemporary Art from Latin America
Through Feb. 28, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, 713/639-7300,

Gerald McLeod has been traveling around Texas and beyond for his "Day Trips" column for the past 24 years. Keep up to date with his journeys on his archive page. Day Trips, Vol. 2, a book of "Day Trips," is available for $8.95, plus $3.05 for shipping, handling, and tax. Mail to: Day Trips, PO Box 40312, South Austin, TX 78704.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

More Day Trips
Day Trips & Beyond: February Events Roundup
Day Trips & Beyond: February Events Roundup
News from Hueco Tanks, Black's Barbecue, and lots more

Gerald E. McLeod, Feb. 5, 2021

Day Trips & Beyond: January Travel Roundup
Day Trips & Beyond: January Travel Roundup
Remembering 2020 and looking forward to travel in 2021

Gerald E. McLeod, Jan. 1, 2021

More by Gerald E. McLeod
Day Trips: Galveston Island State Park
Day Trips: Galveston Island State Park
Enjoy the air show at Galveston Island SP

Feb. 26, 2021

Day Trips: Stax Museum of American Soul Music, Memphis
Day Trips: Stax Museum of American Soul Music, Memphis
Memphis' Soulsville lives on

Feb. 19, 2021


Day Trips, Bonfires on the Levee, Wonderland of Lights

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

New recipes and food news delivered Mondays

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle